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Factors ailing industrial progress in Assam

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  25 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

By Satyajit Kumar Sharmah Thakur

Pitiable conditions of the industries, except for a few in Assam, is a matter of arguments, mainly subjective, by the parties concerned, which very often end up with no positive results. Economic prosperity of a state can be brought about mainly with industrial progress. A sustaible economic prosperity is therefore, not possible without industrial progress. In a state like Assam, cultivation in the present form is nothing but underemployment unless production and productivity are increased substantially. Fragments of land holding are an aggravating factor. Even though we clamour for jobs, first of all, the government cannot create jobs in tune with the number of people becoming unemployed. So unless industrial progress is satisfactorily maintained, even though it may be hard to accept, but yet, the factual position is that the trend of unemployment will be on the rise. A mere decision to open or revamp an industry as the case may be, cannot be a solution: rather in all likelihood that may drub the economy instead if proper steps for identification of strengths , weaknesses , opportunities and threats are not taken. I am too sure that in case of a number of industries in Assam such a step before taking a crucial decision like opening an industry or revamping an industry is not taken. Tax-payers money is spent by the Government for industrial development also. Therefore, people being stakeholders, are having every right to know the Government’s action for industrial development. I do not know if public utility concerns like ASTC and APDCL do not consider profit as one of their prime objectives. A loss to the tune of rupees thirty crore per year because of power theft only as disclosed by the State Power Minister, is enough to exhibit the company’s inefficiency.

To me, most of the wound up industries in Assam faced such a fate because of mismagement. Right from the failure to make proper alysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats before starting an industry, improper identification of problems, failure to do identification of problems, and sitting tight on the problems are some of the reasons of to-day’s dismal performance of most of the industries. Problems will always be there, but magement must be professiol to solve them. Solutions are not readymade formulae. According to the tures, the problems require solutions and that is why without professiol knowledge and expertise such problems as often as not, remain domint. I intend to dwell on some of the problems with an objective outlook. They may be a few only in number but by and large it has been observed that they are common to most of the sick and already wound up industries in Assam.

Achievement of Break Even Point for a concern is no longer a concept even for a short term operation, and in the long run such costs being of one ture only i.e. variable in ture, an industry is left out with no other option but to recover all the costs incurred and over and above that emphasis on earning sizeable profit. This concept is the driving force of an industry. With that end in view a professiol company arranges its various strategies and makes changes as and when required. For that, proper planning is required which most of the industries in Assam seriously lack.

With achievement of results, control is like hand in glove because, for any negative variation of achievement from the standard set, control is indispensable but for getting an effective market, quality control is sine qua non.

Leaving my dwelling on some salient micro level problems different from entity to entity in the industries in Assam, for the future, here I am interested in dwelling on some of the problems, commonplace in so many industries with direct government role in them in Assam without proper steps to inhibit. As understood, by and large, determition of required quantities of manpower is not there in most of the industries in Assam. So detrimental is the presence of extra manpower in an industry that not only it harms profitability of the organization but the most dangerous impact of that is inefficiency of manpower also. After determition of the quantity of manpower rendered surplus, only, any planning can be made for deployment of those employees gainfully elsewhere. Out of so many, I can cite an example of an agreement for replacement of few machines by a very sophisticated machinery by clubbing few phases in production process for more production and productivity with requirement of less manpower in connection with a long-term settlement of the first company wherein I was in the magement of the HRD department. Initially, the unions (all the concerned unions were involved) were suspecting the move of the magement. But while assurance was given to them that through orientation programme the employees who would be rendered surplus would be gainfully utilized in the organization itself, we noticed great cooperative attitude of both the unions to the settlement. Through orientation programme, not only that we could produce workmen capable of doing works in different departments but at the same time their efficiency also showed discernible increase leading to increase in salary. That settlement of course, inter alia, provided for some other measures also for increasing departmental production and productivity, the maxim being efficient would be gaining and the inefficient would be losing. At least, I am not too sure as to how many organizations in Assam are having proper manpower planning right from determition of required quantities of manpower. The question of other steps of manpower magement can arise provided the required quantity of manpower is determined first of all. In the second company of my employment, where I was the Head of the Personnel Department in the region, some employees of other departments, through orientation programmes, were made efficient marketing personnel also; at the same time not to speak of time-bound completion of their respective departmental works with required levels of efficiency shown by them, failure to comply even a little bit with the suggestions made in the audit reports, by those employees, never came to my notice during my tenure there. Their enthusiasm in marketing made me also enthusiastic. With chronic failure to perform, the sick units in Assam also give rise to serious suspicion in our minds as to the degrees of appropriateness in recruitment. Recruitment with nepotism and favoritism ignoring efficiency and competence in this era of professiol magement, is a bite with venom. So long that ippropriateness in recruitment goes on, I can tell emphatically that all other steps for industrial development may even become a farce. Because, whatever may be the ture of a problem, behind that only human beings are there and solutions will also have to be found out by human beings only, even though machine is used for the purpose. In this world of efforts for thriving in business, complex problems must be conquered with proper knowledge and expertise. Pertinent studies will reveal the truth. It is also heard that in so many industries in Assam, very often, overtime earnings of some employees are almost at par with their normal salaries and sometimes overtime payment to such an employee is even more than his normal salary. If it is a fact, what are the steps taken by those industries to arrest such a trend?

Provision of maintaining levels of inventories in most of the industries, as understood, is not very scientific in ture. For instance, can I have from the authority of Assam Gas Co. Ltd., the information as regards the quantities of C category goods (C category according to ABC Alysis of Inventory Control) with value as of date with their respective lead times even at the place of the factory? What policy does it follow in respect of disposing of the obsolete stores and in the last one year how much has it got out of selling out obsolete stores?( Herein even the fixtures and furniture should also be included). Nicely arranged different vehicles of different departments both inside and outside the premises, which are now safe places for white ants and skes with creepers inside, must have been in a disposable position to get some revenue sometimes in the past! Another requirement of magement is to adopt austerity measures which include cost saving measures also. We find a lot of cases of some such industries pending in different legal forums. Efforts should be on to reduce the number of cases in order to reduce expenses in connection with litigatiol matters on one hand and making availability of more time to the company’s concerned mager and the staff on the other hand for engagement in productive works. Losing winning ratio mostly leans towards the losing side as the statistics reveal.

During my tenure of service in the private sector, I had the opportunity of interacting with various top-notch professiols of different companies. Those companies are busy stching markets from their competitors and occupying new markets. For that, cost effectiveness and quality of the products are the most essential features. Constant endeavour for quality assurance (earlier concept was quality control) and research and development must be in full flow. In Assam whatever may be the endeavour of the government for setting up new concerns or revamping the sick units, to me, it will be a great mistake if we do not know the competitors’ positions in the market and the fierceness of competition prevailing in the market. After all, it is a ground of cut throat competition. In order to settle down in the market with profitability, such a step may instead entail further agony if we do not pull our socks up with professiol outlook.

Even though it may not be easy to digest, but the factual position is that any expectation that the Government will absorb the unemployed youths in the state over a period of time, to me, is a utopian thought. Even if a substantial number of such youths are absorbed, I will term that as really spectacular. But while the role of the Government is a must, as already mentioned, individual efforts to improve upon the performances drastically, is of much more importance otherwise, I will not be surprised, if the industrial loss shows spiraling growth to the detriment of the economic health of the state.

Any decision of the government for opening or revamping an industry should invariably have experts’ professiol opinion/report since it must exist with profit and that is possible provided the industry is professiol in ture. The earlier notion that a service-oriented organization is not basically for profit but for rendering service, is no longer acceptable to the professiol magement and hence that is discarded since profit is equally important with service.

Apropos of what have been mentioned, a news item appeared in the Asomiya Khobor’s edition on 6th September,2016 was a loss to the tune of Rs.1,206.58 crore sustained by public sector enterprises in Assam and 11 (eleven) such enterprises are on the brink of extinction. Is the Government having at its disposal the reasons of such a fate? Who were responsible for that? What actions were taken against such inefficient persons? Was there any fault in top magement’s policies or/and in other actions and if yes, what actions were taken against that top magement? Were the enterprises having reward system for the performers and provision of punishment for the non-performers? If we do not go much into all these diseases, such sickness of industries cannot be remedied.

However, these are only a few of the commonly found problems, in actuality numbers and tures of problems vary from industry to industry requiring treatments as may be deemed fit and proper. After all we being tax payers, are having every right to know them because of the tax-payers money in such Government spending. According to me, it is high time the Government should think about considering only professiolly qualified and experienced persons to be the Chairpersons of the government enterprises.

I have heard a lot of news about the contemplation of the Government of Assam to open some already closed-down industries and to revamp some sick industries. If such a decision is not backed up by a thorough spread- work duly considering the ability to face keenly competitive environment in the market, I will desist from appreciating such a move and will rather be apprehensive of a similar situation i.e. the already mentioned fate of the sick industries, with addition of mes in the list. Because, the competitors will also pull their socks up at the entry of a competitor in the market to ensure that the new enterprise cannot easily make inroad into their territories. In this context the position of ATC in competition with the tea gardens of private sector companies like Tata Tea Ltd., Williamson Magor & Co. Ltd. and Duncan Tea Ltd etc., is a mentioble example.

In spite of all the odds, I am still very much optimistic, only requirement is that the steps should be taken in right perspective and with professiol outlook. Capability of accepting challenges in the market with quality and price according to market segments must be ensured first of all. Only thereafter the question of quantity will come. It is indispensable because unless industrial development can be brought about, the development of the state will be finding itself within a vice.

I am not at all pessimistic of the industrial scerio in Assam as I have already mentioned, on expectation that all concerned will rise to the occasion without further lapse of time. But for that, our manpower must be professiolly attuned because they are the only animated force to utilize and control the other factors. I am hopeful of a turround, but what is required prima facie is our capability, willingness and determition to rise to the occasion appropriately without further loss of time, otherwise I will not be surprised if the state witnesses further aggravation of industrial health affecting the economy of the state very drastically.

Here in Assam, since private sector is also having a very imperative role in the state’s economy, the industries under this sector should come out with more contributory attitude towards the state’s economy creating avenues for more employment. However, government support is also indispensable for such industrial growth.

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